Russia continues to have a significant influence in the Balkans, which it seeks to preserve by hindering its countries Euro-Atlantic integration.
This was said by the participants in Franko Egros show “EuroTalks”, broadcasted on Euronews Albania television. The researcher of Balkan relations, Xhelal Neziri, who is also a collaborator from Skopje of the portal “TheGeopost” said that Russian influence is also present in Northern Macedonia.
“The purpose of this influence was to prevent the country’s integration into NATO. With EU integration it seems Russia does not have so many problems. But with NATO enlargement, Russia is becoming increasingly nervous. This nervousness is also being seen in the case of Ukraine. Russia agrees to have a NATO military base in Ukraine, but strongly opposes its membership in the North Atlantic Alliance. Before reaching the Prespa Agreement with Greece, before the change of power in 2016 and after 2018 when NATO integration began, the Russian Foreign Minister had a direct
warning to Skopje that with NATO membership, Northern Macedonia becomes a legitimate target of Russia”, said Neziri.
According to him, this threat began to be implemented by blocking the import of agricultural goods and products continuing by the development of a hybrid war against Northern Macedonia, always exploiting the cultural and religious ties with the ethnic Macedonian majority in this country.
“Before NATO integration, Russia offered them integration into the Eurasian Union, as an alternative to Euro-Atlantic integration. The same thing was said in Brussels by the Russian ambassador there. But Russia tends to make a big impact at a small cost. This is achieved by exploiting the common cultural heritage with the Slavic people in the Balkans and by abusing the Orthodox Church” said Neziri.
Security policy expert Ilir Kulla said Russia’s role in global politics should not be underestimated as it is one of its most important actors.
“Russia is one of the winners of World War II, it is a member of the UN Security Council, it is a country located on two continents, it has a very important role in the world economy, or in some sectors such as energy or gas, food … Russia is a very important world reality, but it has based its
power on pan-Slavism and the Slavic Orthodox Church. In their concept, where there is a Slavic Orthodox church, there is also Russia. Therefore, the interest in influencing the Balkans is very high”, Kulla said.